When ever I think about the books of Genesis, I think about how it starts . . . “In the beginning . . . “ And the gospel of John starts the same way.
“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.” (Genesis 17:1-7)
Abraham was a beginning too. Called out of his homeland, he left prestige and a place in society, and went unto at the time an unknown future. God had promised Abraham (as he came to be known) many things, but as of yet few of them had come to pass.
Now, if Abraham had felt unsure as to how all of this was to come about, one cannot blame him. After all, he was new (comparatively) to a faith and religion where the believer had to do a good bit of work in order for the prophecies and predictions to come true – after all idols of wood and stone would be hard pressed to accomplish much. And Abraham did not know at that point a covenant with God is nothing to dismiss lightly. After all, if we dismiss with ease our covenant with God in light of what we know and should know, we can’t blame Abraham much.
“God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” (Verses 15-16)
This is the second time that Abraham had been told that he would have a son of his own to inherit from him. The first time God said it would be his own son and not from another household. This time God is more precise saying it will be from his wife Sarah that the son will come.
When God wants to make a new beginning, the Divine does not re-use issues and situations from the past. God’s new beginnings are fresh and new; just as we cast off our old lives and take on new life, so God gave Abraham and Sarah a new life that would carry on and be built into a whole nation.
The ashes from Ash Wednesday are sins of old sins and old ways. The process of Lent can lead us to new ways and new understandings. I hope and pray, beloved reader, that you find this true for you. Selah!